How to Reconnect Kids with Nature

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Does your family spend much time outdoors? Sadly, it’s nearly a lost art for many of us, with parents and kids indoors all day for work and school. Once home, we may simply trade computers for TV─between managing phones, iPods, and iPads, of course. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, some kids spend as much as 60 hours a week involved in electronic media!

Many American children today have limited direct experience with the outdoors. If they do get out, it’s usually connected to organized sports or asphalt play grounds. But that can change! If you want to strengthen your child’s connection with nature, these ideas can help:

Discuss the environment

The more kids learn about the natural world, the more interested they typically become. Start with a general discussion about a natural setting, tree, plant, animal or related topic. See what piques their interest, and plan outings accordingly. Cultivating a greater awareness of our environment is a great way to start reconnecting kids with nature.

Set the example

Nature encompasses so much─from coral reefs, to stunning mountains and rainforests, to countless animal species. You can forge connection points through the books you choose, the films you view, the causes you support, and how you treat the environment. Why not set a great example and spark a love for our precious, natural world?

Cultivate a village

If you have like-minded friends, you might collaborate on nature-based play dates. For example, if you take your kids and their friends to the beach one day, your friend can take the gang on a nature hike next. You can also regularly gather together at a park or field for a picnic, bug watching, games, tree climbing, races, etc.

Teach love of animals

Most children have a natural affinity for animals. Caring for pets teaches compassion for others, and expands your heart and spirit. Kids may also enjoy petting zoos, animal shelters, or farms. Some horse stables allow visits as well. Have your child list their favorite animals, research endangered species, or even “foster” a dog or cat at no charge.

Benefit from resources

Organizations like Nature Explore help families experience nature as an integral, joyful part of children’s daily learning. The Nature Explore Program offers workshops and other resources to schools, nature centers, national forests, parks and wildlife refuges, zoos, arboretums and early childhood programs: http://www.arborday.org/explore/

Time in nature is beneficial for healthy childhood development on many levels, and is a valuable priority for any family. Enjoy your world─naturally.

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